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Sunday, April 14, 1996

Land in Collinsville only cost $5 deed fee

Kristin Delaplane

Four-horse coaches spanned Benicia, Suisun

The year 1863 marked the second year of publication of the Solano Press. Its offices were located in Wheaton’s Building at the corner Main and Solano in Suisun City. A one-year subscription for this weekly edition was $5, payable in U.S. gold coin. The Solano Press also acted as a book and job printing establishment.

At this time, Caswell was a recognized township of Solano County. Where it was located is not clear, but it apparently was in a developer’s imagination.

With the Civil War under way, a number of militia groups were starting to form in Solano County to provide manpower to the Union if needed. Fifty-six citizens of Vallejo organized the McClellan Guards artillery company.

D.T. Truitt started Suisun High School in Williamson’s Brick Building in Fairfield. Tuition was set at $3 to $6 a month.

As a means of enticing settlers to the area, the settlement of Collinsville was offering land at the mere cost of a deed, $5. The reasoning was that if people came in, everyone’s property would double in value.

Ten farms, five cottages with 50-by-100-foot lots, five riverfront lots, 191 lots within the town limits and another 194 miscellaneous lots were offered.

At this time, Collinsville had a post office, store, large warehouse, school, and a 200-foot-long-by-100-wide feet wharf. There was regular ferry service between Collinsville and Antioch and steamer traffic to and from Sacramento and San Francisco.

In the legal arena, attorneys flourished in the 1800s. The Wheaton Building not only housed the offices for the Solano Press, but there were also two attorneys’ offices and a justice of the peace office. These offices were situated above two commercial enterprises: W.F. Halsey’s store and W. Owen’s saddler’s shop.

Other attorneys had offices in Suisun City. One was over McGarvey’s tin shop and another over A. Chrysler’s Saloon on Main Street. There were also attorneys’ offices in the “Old Court House” in Fairfield.

Medical services were supplied by people such as Dr. C.H. Coffron, a physician and surgeon, had his offices at his place of residence, which was on Texas Street in Fairfield.

Coffron’s night sign was a lantern. He advertised that he was eclectic in his choice of remedies. He judged all known cures and those in vogue and took from these what he determined were valid.

Coffron rejected those “curative” agents that were known poisons. He prescribed a number of medicines that he personally concocted.

Dr. Coffron was also practiced in dentistry able to perform cleanings, fillings and the extraction of teeth. The patient could choose to have ether.

Fairfield’s Dr. M.S. McMahan had attended the Eclectic-Medical Institute in Ohio, and he selected from those known and vogue theories that he thought best. He had devoted time to the study of “old chronic diseases” with particular attention to diseases afflicting women and children.

Dr. T.M. Morton of Suisun City practiced medicine out of his residence, the second house north on the Old Plank Road (a k a Suisun Street).

Dr. J.C. Norman, physician, surgeon and obstetrician, practiced from his residence located in the Suisun Valley.

On the leisure side, the partners G.W. Dustin and T.H. Chandler owned the Champion Saloon in Vallejo. A shooting gallery and two billiard tables were attached to the business.

Von’s Saloon in Benicia’s was located in Sage’s Brick Building and was operated by E.H. von Pfister. Von Pfister was one of Benicia’s original settlers, arriving in 1846 and establishing a store, saloon and hotel in a 40-by-25-foot adobe.

Von Pfister’s store/saloon gained fame as the place where word of the California gold fields was leaked. In his 1863 saloon he carried wines, liquors and cigars and was “pleased to see his old friends on all occasions.

M. Cutler, owner of Cutlers Mail Line, operated four-horse coaches between Suisun and Benicia. His coach left Suisun daily at 1 p.m., arriving in Benicia in time to connect with the Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco steamers as well as the Smith & Co. Stages to Vallejo and Napa. His coach left Benicia daily at 6:30 a.m. for Suisun City.

The steamer Rambler, with H.P. Hulbert as master, operated between Suisun City and San Francisco, stopping briefly at Benicia.

The steamer departed from Suisun on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 a.m. Farmers were warned to get their shipments of produce and grain to the dock in time to have it loaded. The return trip was from the Broadway Wharf in San Francisco leaving Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m.

Membership in clubs was a large part of 1800s social life.

Members of the Fairfield Lodge I.O.G.T. met at Dr. McMahan’s house.

The Suisun Lodge I.O.O.F held its meeting every Monday evening.

The Solano Lodge I.O.O.F. met Friday evenings at their hall in the Verhave’s Building in Benicia.

The Benicia R.A. Chapter had its communications the Tuesday on or before the full moon of each month at its hall in Benicia.

There was the Benicia Lodge and Masons. The San Pablo Lodge I.O.O.F. met Monday evenings in Vallejo. The Naval Lodge and Masons had their monthly meeting in Vallejo in their hall.

The Vacaville Lodge & Masons met in the Odd Fellows Hall in Vacaville on Fridays. The Vacaville Lodge I.O.O.F. met Saturday evenings in their hall. The Carquinez Encampment I.O.O.F. met in the Odd Fellows Hall in Suisun City twice a month. The Suisun Lodge & Masons met on Saturday of the next full moon.

This following information comes from a reader regarding last week’s story on duck clubs. I hope this reader contacts me, as we would like to interview the person who hunted in the 1920s.

“A four-gauge shotgun fires quarter shot and is essentially a small cannon. A person who hunted in the Suisun marsh in the 1920s with a four-gauge shotgun told me they never held the gun when firing it. They had two methods of firing the gun.

“One method for using the gun was to position it over a baited pond using sand bags, camouflaging themselves away from the gun and firing the gun using a lanyard when the ducks were in position.

“The second method for using the gun was to strap it onto the back of a mule and walk the mule toward a flock of ducks feeding on a pond. The ducks would not be disturbed as long as the mule was between the man and the ducks. In this manner, they could get close enough to the ducks to fire the gun.”